Meet the Leaders

2021 Leaders To Learn From

Recognizing excellence in school district leadership

We are excited to reveal our 2021 honorees. These cutting-edge district leaders drew on the foundations they laid and a wellspring of strong relationships to meet their students’ and staffs’ needs during the COVID-19 pandemic and other challenges of the school year.

Read a reflection from past Leader To Learn From Susana Cordova.

School & District Management Leader To Learn From Nurturing Talent at Home to Revive a Struggling Region
In rural Edgecombe County, N.C., Valerie Bridges is revitalizing the region with micro-schools and a homegrown teacher-development program.
9 min read
Valerie Bridges, Superintendent of Edgecombe County Schools in Tarboro, N.C.
Valerie Bridges, the superintendent of Edgecombe County Schools in Tarboro, N.C., has started microschools, a teacher-recruitment program, and is revamping school discipline to change the trajectory in this rural district.
Alex Boerner for Education Week
School & District Management Leader To Learn From In Navajo Nation, a Star Superintendent Draws on His Ties to the Community
Quincy Natay grew up in Chinle, Ariz. Now he's increasing student access to laptops and Wi-Fi to maintain growth in learning through the pandemic.
8 min read
Quincy Natay, superintendent of the Chinle Unified School District in Arizona.
Quincy Natay, superintendent of the Chinle Unified School District in Arizona.
Steven St. John for Education Week
School & District Management Leader To Learn From A Wrestling Coach Pins Down the Education Technology of the Future
A Kansas leader keeps his district abreast of evolutions in broadband and technology—and finds parallels in his role as a wrestling coach.
7 min read
Doug Vander Linden, Director of Educational Technology, Burlington Unified School District, Kan.
Doug Vander Linden, Director of Educational Technology – Burlington Unified School District, Kansas
Evert Nelson for Education Week
Professional Development Leader To Learn From How This District Leader Transformed Teacher PD
In Bakersfield, Calif., Jason Hodgson revamped teacher PD with a suite of customized, online courses taught mainly by district teachers.
8 min read
Jason Hodgson, director of professional development at the Panama-Buena Vista Union School District in Bakersfield, Calif., has revolutionized the district's teacher-professional development program.
Jason Hodgson, director of professional development at the Panama-Buena Vista Unified School District in Bakersfield, Calif.
Nick Agro for Education Week
Families & the Community Leader To Learn From Relying on Community Values: How One School Leader Advocates for Vulnerable Families
Carissa Purnell’s work at the Family Resource Centers in Salinas, Calif., is a lifeline for families, many of them migrant farm workers.
7 min read
Carissa Purnell, director of the Family Resource Centers for the Alisal Union School District in Salinas, Calif.
Carissa Purnell, director of the Family Resource Centers for Alisal Union School District in Salinas, Calif., provides essential services and critical information to vulnerable families.
Nic Coury for Education Week
Families & the Community Leader To Learn From Driving Academic Improvement by Empowering Parents
Central to turning around public education in Detroit is reengaging the parents who had been largely cut out of the district.
10 min read
Nikolai Vitti, superintendent of Detroit Public Schools, and Sharlonda Buckman, assistant superintendent of family and community engagement, have made parental engagement a key part of their turnaround strategy.
Nikolai Vitti and Sharlonda Buckman of Detroit Public Schools in Detroit, Mich.
Brittany Greeson for Education Week
School & District Management Leader To Learn From Building a Community for Black Male Teachers
Baron R. Davis is leading efforts to hire more Black male teachers committed to improving academic excellence in a South Carolina district.
8 min read
Baron Davis, Superintendent of Richland School District Two, in Columbia, S.C.
Baron Davis, superintendent of Richland School District Two, in Columbia, S.C.
Gerry Melendez for Education Week
School & District Management Leader To Learn From Ensuring Homeless Students Are Seen During a Pandemic
In Everett, Wash., Amy Perusse brought together a range of agencies to meet the needs of homeless students and their families.
8 min read
Amy Perusse, homeless education coordinator for Everett School District in Washington, has kept track of and coordinated services for her students across county lines during the pandemic.
Amy Perusse, homeless education coordinator for Everett School District in Washington, has kept track of and coordinated services for her students across county lines during the pandemic.
Jenny Riffle for Education Week
Curriculum Leader To Learn From Taking an Unapologetic Approach to Curriculum Overhaul
An academic leader at a charter school has overhauled curriculum—and proved that instructional rigor and anti-racism can co-exist.
11 min read
Danielle Kelsick, Chief Academic Officer for the Environmental Charter Schools in Redondo Beach, Calif.
Danielle Kelsick, Chief Academic Officer for the Environmental Charter Schools in Redondo Beach, Calif.
Nick Agro for Education Week
Science Leader To Learn From A Place Where Teachers Take the Lead on Science Curriculum
Anna Heyer has empowered teachers to shape the science curriculum in an Arizona district, and has expanded time spent on science.
7 min read
Anna Heyer, District Science Specialist for the Flowing Wells Unified School District in Tucson, Ariz.
Anna Heyer, science specialist for the Flowing Wells Unified School District in Tucson, Ariz.
Caitlin O'Hara for Education Week